Published on April 21st, 2015 | by KARL WERNER
IS OUR WORLD IN BALANCE?
Who eats who? Is our world in balance? And if not, what about that little part everybody can apparently contribute to?
According to the FAO (the food and agriculture organization of the United Nations) 805 million people in the world suffer from undernourishment and yet 1.4 billion are overweight. That does not sound balanced. But, if so many people are overweight, there should be enough food, shouldn’t there? Yes, there is enough food. But where do the wealthy countries get all that food from? Maybe they have better possibilities for growing and harvesting? They don’t, the food comes from the poor countries where people are starving. Can that be considered balanced? I don’t think so.
The topic I want to talk about in this article is somewhat controversial. I know and want to emphasize that not all the words I write here are literally correct, exaggeration is a tool I have used but soon enough you will notice what it is about and how true it is. And it concerns everybody, even if you have never really thought about it.
One of humanity’s greatest challenges for the future is to ensure sufficient nutrition for the world’s population, which has been constantly and steeply increasing for decades and an end is not in sight. The “western world”, including the upcoming newly industrializing nations such as Brazil and India, eat thousands of tons of food every day and expect full supermarkets with groceries from all over the world all year-around. And we want to eat meat for dinner, at least three or four times a week. Does our generation still know where this food comes from? Of course! From the fridge in the supermarket cut into bite-sized portions and wrapped up in plastic. No sign that this has ever been alive. But isn’t it that what we want? It should look like animal as little as possible to make it easy for us consumers to buy and eat without guilty conscience. Would you eat dog or cat four times a week? I doubt it, but you do eat chicken and beef as if it appears from nowhere. Would you be actually able to slaughter your own food? Cut off a chicken’s head? This is the question you should ask yourself next time you stand in front of the variety of meat products in the supermarket. We want meat, no matter where it comes from and no matter what consequences industrial livestock farming has.
We students are all very poor. So poor that we scrape through and have just enough money to afford the latest fanciest cell phone and, because it is so much lighter and easier to handle, we also need the newest tablet. And we also have barely enough money to get ourselves the nicest running shoes, to go next to three pairs of trainers we have already in the cabinet anyway. Still, we want food which has to be on a price level that it can only be produced with supplies from third-world-countries, countries where people are still starving. Or, we want food which has been produced with supplies from former rain forests, cut down for our 3-times-a-week-steak. While we have so much meat and others suffer, thousands of hectares of valuable wood are cut down to grow soy for our livestock. Does that sound balanced? I still don’t think so. For our cheap meat others pay a high price. Can we do anything about it? I think so. But how can I help poor people at the other side of the globe, when I am just one, alone?! The answer is that everybody should reconsider their priorities. Everybody of us can contribute some little part, because we, the consumers, are the strongest party in this global food-mayhem. We do have enough money and are students in a young and dynamic generation which should face up to global issues and try to solve them. However, for this purpose we have to open our eyes and stop walking blindfolded through our lives. Have you ever thought about where the 20 Kroner steak comes from? From Grandma Inger’s little farm, fed with local crops and cut up in the home kitchen – I think not?
But not only is our meat-lust controversial. Another aspect I want to mention in this somewhat absurd modern consumer attitude, is the expectation to have fresh vegetables and fruits from all over the world all year around. Globalization does obviously make this luxury possible, but is it really necessary? Do we need strawberries in the winter or bush beans and peas from Kenya? Our demand for fresh veggies in the winter is satisfied with for example, products from Kenya, a country in which one quarter of the population is undernourished and about 2 million people are directly threatened by hunger. How does that match? A country with starving people which exports valuable nutrition at the same time? Everybody who just thinks about that for a minute will realize that this ethically very dubious. Far away from balanced. How little we actually need this questionable supply becomes more obvious when we look at what vegetables we can actually buy in the winter which still come from Norway: carrots, tomatoes, celery, a variety of salads, Brussels sprouts… do we really need bush beans from Kenya?
It is not my intention to play the “third-world-countries-sympathy”-card and to try convince you to donate for UNICEF. But I want everybody, especially us students, to start thinking about who is at the bottom. What we do, buy or demand does have consequences. Do we really need to eat meat every day? If yes, then we need to live with the effects of industrial livestock farming: multiresistant bacteria, morally highly doubtable practices regarding animal welfare and a food supply from the third world. Is it necessary to put tens of thousands animals in a monoculture far away from any natural conditions they are supposed to live in?
So what are the alternatives? Buy locally produced food, reconsider your meat consumption (fish is a good alternative just because Norway hosts some of the healthiest stocks in the world) and inform yourself where the food you eat is from. Every opinion and attitude is respected, as long it is thought out.
No, we don’t buy cheap meat because we are so poor, but because our priorities are set wrong.